Verdict for jailed Russian opposition politician Navalny to be announced in August

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Russian state prosecutors on Thursday asked a court to sentence jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny to a further 20 years in a penal colony on criminal charges, including extremism, at the close of his trial, his supporters said.

The 47-year-old has been on trial behind closed doors for a month at the IK-6 penal colony in Melekhovo, about 235 km (145 miles) east of Moscow, where he is already serving sentences totaling 11-1/2 years on fraud and other charges which he says were trumped up to silence him.

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President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and vocal domestic opponent faces a grab-bag of new charges, which he says are similarly fabricated to keep him out of political life.

Court records show they relate to six different articles of the Russian criminal code, including inciting and financing extremist activity and creating an extremist organization.

Navalny’s aides said the verdict would be announced on Aug. 4; acquittals of opposition figures are practically unheard-of in Russia.

In his closing statement, Navalny told the court: “I continue to fight against that unscrupulous evil that calls itself ‘the state power of the Russian Federation’.”

“I am accused of inciting hatred towards representatives of the authorities and special services, judges and members of the United Russia party. No, I don’t incite hatred. I just remember that a person has two legs: conscience and intellect,” he said, according to a text supplied by his aides.

Navalny appeals to court’s conscience

Navalny said there were only 18 people present in the court, seven of them with their faces covered by black masks.

He told them: “When you finally understand that the rejection of conscience will eventually lead to the disappearance of the intellect, then maybe you will stand on those two legs on which a person should stand, and together we can bring the Beautiful Russia of the Future closer.”

At the start of his trial, Navalny, who in the 2010s brought people onto the streets in their tens of thousands, urged Russians to “join forces in the fight against Putin’s lies and Kremlin hypocrisy” ahead of a presidential election in 2024.

Navalny earned admiration from the disparate opposition for voluntarily returning to Russia in 2021 from Germany, where he had been treated for what Western laboratory tests showed was an attempt to poison him in Russia with a Soviet-era nerve agent. The Kremlin denied trying to kill him and said there was no evidence he had been poisoned with such a toxin.

Russia has outlawed Navalny’s campaign organization as part of a crackdown on dissent that started well before the conflict in Ukraine and has intensified in the nearly 17 months since it started.

Navalny’s supporters accuse Moscow of trying to break him in jail, where he has had long spells in solitary confinement.

The Kremlin denies persecuting Navalny, whom it has portrayed as a Western-backed agent of political disruption, and says his case is purely a legal matter for the courts.

“We are not following this trial,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters last month.

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